Sunday afternoon footy kicks off at 2pm this week when the Canterbury Bulldogs take on the New Zealand Warriors in an intriguing clash at ANZ Stadium in Sydney.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
The Bulldogs have struggled with consistency the whole year, and the past few weeks have been no different. They really looked like they had found some form a few weeks ago when they beat the in-form Tigers 16-4 and the Broncos 36-22 the week after. But that momentum came crashing to a halt last week when they were beaten by Manly 18-6 in a poor performance the Bulldogs have been no stranger to this year. They were only able to score one try through impressive young winger Reimis Smith when he showed some strength to power through the Manly defense on his own. This same Manly defense has given up some very big scores this year, which doesn’t bode well for them this week when they take on the Warriors, who have been better defensively.
The Warriors are usually known for sliding down the ladder at this time of the year, but have managed to hit a bit of form to keep themselves afloat in their fight for a top eight birth for the first time since 2011. They did have a bit of a slip up against the Titans on the Gold Coast three weeks ago, going down 36-12, but have since been able to get back on track with an 18-12 win over the Dragons, and a 20-4 win over the Knights last week. They looked solid in defense for the second week in a row, and only conceded one try against the Knights, which is a nice change for the Warriors as they have had a habit of dropping off in this area at various points throughout the year and leaking points in bunches. They are going to need to keep this defensive effort up this week to get a win against the Bulldogs.
Lachlan Lewis returns at five-eighth in place of Matt Frawley in the Bulldogs only change this week.
The Warriors are unchanged after last week’s win over the Knights.
This game marks the first meeting between the two teams this year. Their last meeting was in round 16 last year, and on that occasion the Warriors were able to get the better of the Bulldogs 21-14 at Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland. This result shouldn’t be looked into however, as the two teams have different looking squads this year, and this game is being played in Sydney as opposed to Auckland, so expect the Bulldogs to gain a slight advantage as the home team this time around. The Warriors sit in 8th position on the ladder and are in danger of dropping out of finals contention if the Tigers (9th) can continue winning. The Bulldogs are in a similar position with the fight to avoid the wooden spoon. They are currently equal with the Eels and Cowboys on 14 points, in equal last position on the ladder. They haven’t finished with the wooden spoon since 2008, and they will hope the return of Lachlan Lewis in the halves can help them avoid it for another year.
The key battle in this game is going to be the battle of the halves pairings, Lachlan Lewis and Jeremy Marshall-King vs Blake Green and Shaun Johnson. The Bulldogs pairing of Lewis and Marshall-King is one of the youngest in the competition, and with this youth comes a lot of potential and a lot of enthusiasm. In attack the kicking game of Lewis has been brilliant, and he has shown the maturity of a seasoned veteran by consistently putting his opposition under pressure with pin point accurate kicks. The Bulldogs looked a little lost at times without him against Manly, especially in attack. Jeremy Marshall-King has offset the consistency of Lewis by playing a much more free-flowing running style of play. He has very light footwork just like his older brother Benji Marshall, which is handy for making defenders miss. He has also spent some time at hooker this year so he has learned how to defend with plenty of energy.
As for the Warriors pairing, Johnson and Green have a clear advantage in experience over their Bulldogs counterparts. Shaun Johnson has developed a much more measured approach to his play in the last few years, but he is still one of the deadliest steppers in the game, and is capable of breaking a game open at any moment with his footwork and ball playing ability. Much like the role Lewis plays for the Bulldogs, Blake Green has been a revelation for the Warriors this year. They have really thrived off the execution and consistency Green has given them in attack this year, and he is one of the main reasons Shaun Johnson has been able to play so freely, as he doesn’t have to worry about controlling the game with Green in the side. Expect to see these two to exert some pressure on the Bulldogs defense with a good mix of finesse and flair.
The Warriors rarely at ANZ Stadium, and have only played four games at the venue since 2011. They have lost three of those four games, with their only win coming earlier this year against the Eels in round 11.
SQUADS (optional paragraph)
Bulldogs: 1. Will Hopoate 2. Brett Morris 3. Josh Morris 4. Kerrod Holland 5. Reimis Smith 6. Lachlan Lewis 7. Jeremy Marshall-King 8. Aiden Tolman 9. Michael Lichaa 10. David Klemmer 11. Josh Jackson (c) 12. Rhyse Martin 13. Adam Elliott
Interchange: 14. Fa’amanu Brown 15. Danny Fualalo 16. Ofahiki Ogden 17. Greg Eastwood
Reserves: 19. Francis Tualau 20. Matt Frawley 21. Renouf To’omaga 23. John Olive
Warriors: 1. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (c) 2. David Fusitua 3. Gerard Beale 4. Solomone Kata 5. Ken Maumalo 6. Blake Green 7. Shaun Johnson 8. James Gavet 9. Issac Luke 10. Agnatius Paasi 11. Isaiah Papalii 12. Adam Blair 13. Simon Mannering
Interchange: 14. Jazz Tevaga 15. Leivaha Pulu 16. Bunty Afoa 17. Peta Hiku
Reserves: 18. Joseph Vuna 20. Anthony Gelling 21. Chris Satae 22. Karl Lawton
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Sunday August 19
Venue: ANZ Stadium, Sydney
Kick-off: 2pm AEST
Referees: Jon Stone, Gavin Badger
WHO WILL WIN?
Both teams will be hungry for a win, as the Warriors must win to get out of 8th position, and the Bulldogs must win to avoid the wooden spoon. The Warriors may be the slight favorites, but the Bulldogs have a big chance to pull off an upset at home in this one.
Bulldogs by 2.